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UK comedy clubs face closure without inclusion in £1.57bn arts package

More than 75 per cent of UK comedy venues are in danger of closing within a year without government funding, according to a new survey.

The survey by Live Comedy Association (LCA), which is a new body set up to represent the sector, suggests the industry is in “crisis”, with a third of venues saying they will go under in six months.

The association surveyed more than 660 people working in comedy, from venue owners and stand-up performers to producers and publicists, about the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

The LCA found that 45 per cent of respondents have already considered leaving comedy, with just under 60 per cent predicting they will need to leave before February 2021 unless they are able to get back to performances.

It also found that over three quarters of performers have earned less than five per cent of their pre-pandemic estimated income from online performances of any kind.

In addition to the losses, almost three quarters said their mental health has been negatively impacted by job and industry uncertainty during the pandemic.

Comedy is not supported by Arts Council England and does not receive funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Music, and Sport (DCMS), unlike other forms of art.

The LCA has called for the government to include the sector in its recent £1.57bn emergency arts fund, which was announced Monday and will be allocated later this year.

Owen Donovan, the vice-chair of LCA and the managing director of comedy production company Berk’s Nest, said British comedy is a grassroots creative industry, which is highly accessible and often overlooked.

He added: “Our ticket prices are cheaper than almost any other art form, and comedy takes places in every nation and region of the country, in dedicated spaces but also in pubs, music venues, and theatres in every town and city.

“We’ve long been overlooked within the performing arts; live comedy isn’t viewed as being equal to other art forms by funding bodies across the UK . But we have always been working, contributing to local economies and communities, and producing work that is known worldwide.”

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